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Skip to 0 minutes and 9 seconds Globalisation is often seen in terms of the threats it poses to local lifeworlds and personal ontologies. For example, some scholars of African religion interpret the quite strong religious movements as well as the increase in witchcraft beliefs in sub-Sahara Africa as a response to the spread of capitalism, accelerated modernisation, and urbanisation. Their reasoning is that these processes destabilise local economies. In stable local economies, it was more or less clear how people gained their wealth. But now, mysterious market forces made some people rich and others desperately poor. According to Africanists such as the Comaroffs, this leads people to assume that supernatural forces must be at work in determining who is rich and successful and who is not.

Skip to 1 minute and 5 seconds Often religious movements grouped under the label of fundamentalism have been seen as a response to the ontological insecurities produced by globalisation. However, there are now also quite a lot of scholars who criticise this line of reasoning for two reasons. The first is theoretical. It assumes that religion is a form of false consciousness obscuring real economic mechanisms, or that religion is an anomaly, an irrational reaction that is to be explained against the backdrop of the inevitability of rationalisation.

Skip to 1 minute and 43 seconds The second reason is based on research findings. It obscures the ways that religion also enables people to engage with a globalised world and can provide the basis for imagining a more just society, how it can help people extricate themselves from local lifeworlds in which they may be disadvantaged or oppressed and claim the benefits of global citizenship. In this course, we will leave the theoretical debates aside and focus on the second reason. How does religion enable people to engage with a globalised world? My own research concerns so-called megachurches based in Nigeria that have planted churches in countries all over the world. Resilient Pentecostal churches, such as Igreja Universal are another example.

Skip to 2 minutes and 35 seconds Churches such as these have developed their own media infrastructures, TV stations, publishing houses, websites, and social media. Importantly, they have also developed local communities that gather one or more times a week and are linked via these media, via books, and the constant travel of pastors. These transnational religious fields have in common that they enable people to link up with a global community of people striving to live a religious life, a pure life informed by the highest ideals. They help people to shape a life that is both modern and religious, that is geared towards both earthly and spiritual success. Indeed, within certain forms of Christianity, the two are indistinguishable.

Skip to 3 minutes and 24 seconds Furthermore, they provide both detailed instructions on how to live life on a day-to-day basis and provide people with a global horizon of action in which they can shape their life. Although these religions evidently travel well, it is important to note that aside from a process of disembedding from local contexts, multiple processes of re-embedding and production of localities take place simultaneously. Every time a local congregation is formed, people will have to find a place to worship, create leadership teams, create a stable base, connect with other religious groups, and avoid giving offence within the local context, such as making too much noise, using a building in ways that the owners don’t like, blocking traffic, adhering to financial and tax regulations.

Skip to 4 minutes and 20 seconds Furthermore, Pentecostalism especially is geared towards evangelisation, and thus compels believers to engage with the local context with varying degrees of success. The notion that as a believer one is compelled to reach out to other people can also transform the way people see themselves and how they deal with the roles others assigned to them. Rather than as migrants on the margins of the host society, they see themselves as missionaries, part of a global religious network. What implications does this have for how we view the role of religion in conflict?

Skip to 4 minutes and 58 seconds First of all, to understand why religion plays a role in many conflicts we need to understand why it is important to people on the level of the challenges of daily life, how it helps to shape their hopes, and how it helps them to deal with their fears. Furthermore, it is important to note that here again the formation of a group also leads to a definition of an out group. This in turn can lead to casting those who do not belong to one’s own group as the abject other that has to be combated. If one defines oneself primarily as a member of a religious group, it follows that the abject other is likely someone from another religious group.

Skip to 5 minutes and 46 seconds Marjo Buitelaar will return to the concept of this abject other later this week. As we shall see in Week 5 on religion and peace-building, this is by no means inevitable. A strong identification with certain religious values can also lead to a strong commitment to fostering peace.

Globalisation as an opportunity

Globalisation has traditionally been seen as a threat to religion, and culture, although this is currently disputed. In this video we discuss how Religion has been a means for people to interact with a Globalised world, and the interplay between Global forces and the spread of Religion.

Following from our discussion on transnational fields and migration, we now bring religion as a part of Globalisation, but also as a force of it using specific case studies such as Nigerian Pentecostals and Mega Churches.

Up for debate

Some things you might like to reflect on while watching:

  • How would you define Globalisation? Is it always an economic force, or can it be cultural?
  • How can religions be a force of Globalisation, and why?
  • Globalisation if often seen as asymmetric, in that the ‘west’ invades other ‘less developed’ countries. Is this always true? Can you think of other examples where this is not the case?

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Religion and Conflict

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